In my previous article, I have highlighted the benefits of having a mentor to help you achieve your business goals.
The next step would be to decide who you should approach to be your mentor. Choosing the right mentor can be a long and rigorous process so it is important that you practice patience. Furthermore, the person whom you choose to be your mentor has to agree to guide you.
Here are some tips that will help you make this decision when choosing a mentor.
- Be specific about your expectation
You will have to be certain about what you want to get from the whole relationship. Before seeking out a mentor, you should list down your expectations and the role that you would like the mentor to play. After that, you should list your goals and objectives and communicate them to your mentor. When communicating these goals, you should be clear to your mentor and have them share the same commitment to your expectations. You should also be clear about the time required and your mentor’s availability. At the least, you should have some idea how often you would like to have your regular meetings with your mentor.
- Make a List
You should list down all the people in your community who could potentially be your mentor. In this aspect, do not be restrictive because great mentors can be found in a variety of places.
On the other hand, there are some folks who feel that great mentors should be a stranger outside your social circle.
Sheryl Sandberg, in her book Lean In, draw a similarity between asking strangers to be mentors to the behavior of the main character in the favorite children’s book “Are You My Mother”? The book is about a baby bird that emerges from its shell in an empty nest, and goes in search of its mother. The little bird asks everything it sees (a kitten, hen, dog, cow, steam shovel), “Are you my mother?” The answer is always the same. “No!” This is just like a professional asking a stranger, “Will you be my mentor?”
- Best to Choose a Mentor You Already Know
It is best to choose a mentor whom you already know and yet, inspire you in a certain way. The mentor should be someone whom you have already demonstrated your potential and someone who has trust and believe in you or share your vision. After all, there must be some reason why the mentor agrees to devote his time to give guidance to someone.
I can tell you with certainty that a stranger, though the person has achieved great success, will almost always reject to be your mentor. For one thing, the person is most likely already drowning with similar requests.
One key bit of advice I would give is not necessarily to look for someone that you can build a relationship with, but look for someone who you can ask a very simple question to, who can reply to an email very easily to you. What is it that you need? Don’t look so much on, let’s sit down and have coffee or let’s have a cocktail, but what is the one thing that you need this particular person that you’re seeking a mentor from to actually guide you through? Because I think that’s what has helped me a lot is when there’s a certain question that I have, and I kind of point it to the right person that I know who can actually answer it. It takes the pressure off the person who is being asked.
Janet Mock, New York Times bestselling author, advocate and host of MSNBC’s So POPular
After you have made the list of potential mentors, you can start reaching out to them. Normally, I would advise that you schedule a face to face meeting. Though I will always favour a face to face meeting for any important engagements, an email may also be a polite way of approaching your potential mentor.
When approaching a mentor, you should always have a win-win arrangement in mind. Although you have a clear idea what you expect from the relationship, it is also important to recognize how your potential mentor can get out of the relationship. You should see how you can help your mentor achieve his/her goals.
Mentorship is about being able to empower each other, being willing to listen, give advice and coach people. In so many facets of my career, mentorship and the idea of empowering each other has been a huge factor in my success. Whether it was fundraising or general advice, finding people who are willing to talk to you about the process and believe in you and share their experiences has been a huge help to me. It’s like a sisterhood. I love the opportunity to mentor other people and share my experiences, and hopefully have people learn from my mistakes and successes.
Jamie Rutenberg, COO of Charm & Chain
If you really like a person to be your mentor, you should not give up on them when they reject you at first. Sometimes, you will need to prove to the person that you are someone worthy of their guidance and time. By showing the person that you are persistent, you are showing the person that you are really serious to learn from them. Do not be shy or afraid to approach the person a second or third time.
A final word of advice. It is important to remember that the role of the mentor is someone who can help you navigate in the rough seas and come out in one piece. It is not the responsibility of the mentor to create a clear plan and road map to your final destination. A mentor may not have the answers to everything but they can share lessons through their wisdom and experiences.